Business persons in rural communities in the South West Region of Cameroon are increasingly turning to separatists groups to help recover money the local population is owing them The National Times has investigated.
It comes months after suspected Ambazonia fighters launched a propaganda banning villagers from seeking justice through established State institutions.
The National Times under took an investigation in the locality of Bafia, Muyuka Sub-division. It is a locality which before the Crisis, boasted of at least 20,000 people. The principal activity here is cocoa farming.
One of those summoned to the separatists’ court is a mother of four, whose names we are withholding for professional reasons. Our respondent recounted her story: “ I was at home.. the Amba Boys came on a bike and ferried me to their camp. When I got there, they said a business man from whom I borrowed over FCFA 60,000 to pay surgical bills at a Baptist Health Centre in Bafia for my child had reported me to their court. There, the boys said I must pay the money before the first week of September or face sanctions,” our interviewee stated.
The same source told The National Times that she is not the only person who suffered such fate. “When I got to the camp…. I saw many other persons waiting for their matter to be heard… one of my neighbours owed the same man FCFA 200,000. She had paid FCFA 100,000 and the boys have equally given her a deadline to complete.
The business person whom The Natinal Times attempted unsuccessfully to contact ran a small village bank in the locality before the Crisis. The business man cum Pastor had used mobile money services to assist hundreds of villagers.
With the Crisis dragging on, the ‘village millionaire’ has seemingly gone on the offensive to recover his debts.
Besides these, hundreds of disputes among villagers are heard weekly in such local courts. Disputes over farms, money, family inheritance and other misdemeanours are increasingly being referred to the ‘Amba Boys’.
Findings from other sources indicate that, fines at the separatists’ court range from bags of rice to salt and other consumables. The same cost is applied on those who bring issues before the self-imposed courts.
A host of villagers The National Times talked to confirmed that, with the cocoa season approaching its peak, many are already mooting to approach the separatist courts to solve their problems. Some admitted that, such establishments are not recognised within the State machinery but quipped that “we have no choice… we have to make use of the means available until when this whole matter is over”.
Bafia- Muyuka assumed a volatile character within the early days of the Crisis. It pioneered Government-rejected moves such as the banning of beer and the institution of local courts.
It was the first locality were arson attacks were carried out on brewery trucks and beer parlours. Weeks after, the company stopped supplying beer to the area. In quick succession, the same was applied across the South West Region.
Before now, villagers have been subjected to public beatings for daring to refer disputes to the appropriate State services. Until recent military crackdown, gangs had surfaced in the area using classrooms as detention facilities. Months after, villagers in collaboration with security forces descended on the gang leader Amstrong Efuet and handed him over to the State. He is presently at the Kondengui Prison in Yaounde. The Chief of the village, Peter Mbua, had long escaped in the face of rising disorder and threats to his life.
Muyuka, the Sub-divisional head quarter wherein all State institutions are established has crumbled under gun battles. Courts and Police Stations have been set ablaze.
Yet Cameroon’s Interior Minister, Paul Nji Atanga, in a recent outing has declared that the ‘terrorist’ are in an adventure which will soon be over.